Proposed city budget up 1.86 percent

The City of Moorhead’s proposed 2018 operating and capital budget totals $82,284,861, a projected increase of $1,506,830 – 1.86 percent from 2017. This reflects an increase of $1,646,602 or 4.96 percent above 2017 levels. The proposed budget can have subsequent increases.

City Finance Director Wanda Wagner presented the proposal at the Monday council meeting. Wagner, City Manager Chris Volkers, and department and division leaders worked together to recommend what Volkers called a balanced, affordable plan of action. The plan is designed to continue providing a wide array of municipal services. Discussions with Mayor Del Rae Williams and the City Council mean the proposed budget aligns with the objectives of city officials.

The median value for a home in Moorhead is $177,000. This means a proposed property tax rate increase to $35 or 1.6 percent. Because Moorhead is a growing community, Wagner said new construction and thriving market value kept the tax levy from an 11 percent increase.

Volkers confirmed the city is operating at maximum efficiency within current resources.

Among projected expenditures are bottom line issues:

Wastewater treatment and street improvements are continuous.

Construction for the new joint law enforcement center with Clay County is ahead of schedule. Moorhead Police will be able to move in sooner than expected so $75,000 was added for the lease.

Insurance rates are increasing. The League of Minnesota Cities expects general liability insurance to increase 6 percent, property insurance 3 percent and auto insurance 5 percent.

The city has a new classification and compensation schedule. Health insurance may need a 19 percent more than last year. Staff continues work to reduce that percentage. A 5 percent increase is expected for workers’ compensation insurance.

Additional staffing includes one forestry truck driver to help maintain the growing urban forest, one new part technician for the expanding number of parks, and one technical office specialist in the public works department.

The city plans to fund an assistant city manager position, unfunded since 2009.

Wagner said savings in bond refunds, state aid and the city’s overall growth in new construction offset some of the expenses.

Ward 3 Council Member Brenda Elmer was the only council member to vote no on the proposed budget. She praised the progress but would like to see more work done to reduce taxpayer burden.

Wagner and city staff expects to keep working on ways to save money.

At the same time, Volkers continues to lead negotiations with unions and department leaders. Competitive wages should reduce turnover.

Both Wagner and Volkers emphasized public safety and services are always the focus of staffing and budgets.

A full budget summary is on the city’s website: cityofmoorhead/budget.com.

In Other Action —

Blighted property at 209 14th St. N., will be demolished. Lisa Bode said the house is a “danger to the neighborhood.” The lot will be used by Lake Agassiz Habitat for Humanity for a future affordable home.

On behalf of the city, Audubon Dakota will submit a Minnesota Conservation Partners Legacy Grant for prairie restoration on the river corridor. These efforts will include a focus on removal of common buckthorn and other invasive species.

Moorhead Police Chief David Ebinger said police personnel would receive FEMA training through the Minnesota Highway Patrol for crowd control and use of non-lethal equipment. This will mean the department will have the same training as area departments.

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